|Doing The Mending: Each chapter heading in How To Run Your Home Without Help|
is illustrated with a lovely little line drawing
When our daughters were younger their schoolfriends used to turn up at our house to practice their art homework, or colour their hair (does anyone know how to remove blue dye stains from the wash basin?), then depart telling us how much they liked our ‘cosy’ home – which was, I think, a polite way of saying we were messy, and that their mothers would never dream of letting them do such things in their own homes.
|A trip down Memory Lane: This book brought|
back memories of my childhood, and how hr
my mother worked to keep the house clean
So, you may wonder why I have a kind of theme going on with my current Books In Progress pile, and the theme is... HOUSEWORK! It started quite simply when I spotted a Persephone edition of How To Run Your Home Without Help, by Kay Smallshaw. There it was, among a stack of volumes donated to the Oxfam Bookshop, packed with useful information that must have been invaluable for middle-class housewives when it was first written in 1949, and I just couldn’t resist it, because I’m always convinced that this type of book will help me transform my home into a neat, tidy, well-ordered haven of perfection – and it is such to fun to read.
Then, by coincidence, I came across a review of House-Bound, by Winifred Peck, so I ordered a copy through Abebooks, because it sounded interesting and I deserved a treat, and whilst doing that I discovered The Home-Maker, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, so I ordered that too (I was treating myself, remember). And the next time I was helping in the Oxfam Bookshop I came across a copy of Katie Fforde’s The Rose Revived, with a painted picture of a proper woman on the front, instead of one of those brainless, pastel-coloured, girly graphics that currently grace the covers of her work. So I pounced on it – after all, £1.99 is such a bargain, and Katie Fforde is always a good read, and it’s worth it for the cover alone.
|The endpapers are taken from 'Riverside',|
a 1946 printed dress fabric in rayon crepe,
and I bet it looked fabulous made up
Smallshaw covers just about everything anyone could possibly want to know about keeping house – planning, cleaning, spring-cleaning, equipment, food, shopping, washing, mending, doing the accounts, and what to do when Baby comes. There’s even a chapter on A Man About The House, and another on Beauty While You Work (a simple tin of Vaseline is a ‘hand-saver’ and rubber gloves are useful, she says). And she advises always using ‘a scarf, cap or clean duster pinned like a nurse’s square over the head and hair when doing the rooms’, as well as remembering to brush your hair each night. In addition, you can get a ‘beauty bath’ by going out in the rain with no cosmetics on, and on wash-day you should cleanse your skin and apply nourishing cream before you begin, then the steam will soften it. And, apparently, housework is good for the figure, although I can’t say it’s done anything for mine – perhaps the 1949 housewife didn’t keep stopping for snacks.
|The problem with buying second-hand|
Persephone is that the bookmarks are
missing, but I found this postcard which
There are tips on starching, blueing and stiffening (does anyone else remember those?) as well as hints about taking the drudgery out of ironing – although personally I doubt such a thing is possible.
And the section on mending is an absolute joy. Who these days would bother to darn clothes or ‘make over’ bed linen (in the days before fitted sheets and duvet covers, cotton or linen sheets were cut up the middle, then stitched back together, with the worn patches turned to the outsides).
|Ready For Action: Chapter III is all about using the right equipment|
I loved this book, largely I suspect, because it was a real trip down Memory Lane, reminding me of my own childhood in the 1950s. To anyone younger than me it would probably seem very old-fashioned, but there is a surprising amount of sound advice that could still be followed and adapted to suit modern lifestyles. But it did confirm my view that progress is a wonderful thing when it comes to housework!
|Spring Cleaning: Does anyone still do this?|